A Dog By Any Other Name

By Levi on May 15, 2012 to Game of Thrones

The Hound: Sandor Clegane

It seems everywhere I go I have to slip Game of Thrones into the conversation whether its with a group of friends or a stranger at the grocery store. I recently ran into a woman who while scanning my items asked me what all the soda and ice cream was for. Unembarrassed and instantaneous I offered gleefully that it was for a Game of Thrones watch party I have with friends every Sunday. Not expecting the grey-haired clerk to know what the heck I was talking about, I was pleasantly taken aback when she asked “Is that the one with the dragon lady?” “Yes!” I squealed. Ugh I sound awful when I write it down but this is my passion. After commenting on wanting beautiful white hair, silver I corrected, like Dany’s, she asked me if one of the characters was a bad guy. I didn’t know how to respond. How do I qualify these incredibly nuanced characters who I’ve been privy to some of their innermost thoughts and actions in the books? I never see them as wholly bad or good, aside from a few rotten to the core characters, Joff cough Mountain cough. I’m not sure how easy that would be to explain to someone who hasn’t read the books, but HBO prides itself on creating just that–characters that aren’t completely good or evil. Tony Soprano, Al Swearingen, Stringer Bell, and yes even Sandor Clegane the scowling hound of Westeros. A man whose heart is gnarled and scarred as his face.

I love the Hound. Aside from his brief screen time on the show, I think he’s one of the most well painted and interesting characters in the series. Although most of my mancrush comes from the books, I believe that Sandor is exceptionally rendered for television. Sandor, I believe is supposed to be in his 20s in the books, gets the popular aging up treatment in the show which I think adds to his menace and awkward relationship with Sansa Stark who is the complete opposite of his character. Rory McCann who plays Clegane, not to be confused with his older roid-rage brother Gregor Celgane, who slices off horses heads, I first saw in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz as the herp-derp “halfwit” henchman towering over the rest of the cast in his 6’6 frame. It’s interesting to note that Thrones other tall actor Kristian Nairn who plays the “halfwit” Hodor, tried out for this role but lost out to the Scottish actor McCann. I wonder if we’ll ever get a Hound/Hodor standoff in the show?

What really drew me to the character of the Hound would be spoiling things for non-book readers but I will say a lot of it comes later with a very unexpected pairing on down the road. But I can relate his backstory that was unceremoniously stolen by Littlefinger in the series. Sandor is a hulking brute of a man nearly anyone in Westeros would be frightened of, nearly everyone but his brother, Gregor, The Mountain that Rides and Sandy has the scar to prove it. You can tell Sandor has some unease about his facial deformation in the way his dark, greasy hair swoops over that side of his face offering a modicum of concealment. I think Sandor is hiding more than just his burns and that’s what makes him infinitely intriguing. I want to know everything about him. Why is he so callous and ornery? As Littlefinger tells it in the show inexplicably to Sansas in the first series at the Hand’s Tourney, as a young boy Sandor was playing with a toy by the fire when his elder brother grabs him and pushes his face into the fire. I thought the Lannister’s were dysfunctional, jeez. Well technically the Cleganes did serve the Lannisters so… It’s interesting to note that The Hound or “Dog” as he is called by Prince Joffrey at the time, won the Tourney of the Hand for protecting Ser Loras Tyrell from Gregor’s bloodlust or being a sore loser, whatever you want to call it. It’s clear that The Hound’s act of kindness really isn’t that at all, it’s personal. That theme of acting not on honor or some higher calling but on personal motivation is what the series to me is all about. The Hound represents the best and worst of the characters in Westeros, at his heart he is a survivalist but he’s also petty and inhumane, traits that in this world go can go hand in hand.

I really don’t care to much for all the shipping and excitement over the San/San (Sandor and Sansa) relationshipping going on all over the place. I have my own theories on what fuels his interest in the “little bird” but I’ll wait until the time is right to go into detail. I will say however in the latest episodes of the second season namely The Old Gods and the New and A Man Without Honor there are some spectacular scenes between the two. I admit that I swooned when Clegane disemboweled her potential rapers during the riot in King’s Landing and was hoping some day I would be thrown over someone’s shoulder and carried—wait what am I saying? Anyway, I thought their storyline is finally finding its feet and tv Hound is showing some excellent potential for badassary.

I think another bonus point in Sandor’s favor is that he is named to the Kingsguard after Barristan Selmy is unceremoniously retired (A Kingsguard duty is for life!) but shirks being knighted. His thoughts on knighthood and chivalry, a clear antithesis to Sansa’s naive idealism, again cuts through the bullshit of the fabricated code of honor men like Sansa’s father and the bastard Jon Snow are so consumed with. Clegane’s rejection of the title again is brought about for personal reasons. The Hound has fought with knights and seen battles and atrocities committed by so called chivalrous men. I think its implicit that he’s referring to his brother who is a knight and at the behest of his superiors, namely, Tywin Lannister, has committed some of the most heinous acts of violence and torture found in the series.

I think a big part of my fascination and continued exploration of the series is founded by the appearance of these fantastic sideline characters like The Hound. I want more backstory. I scour the internet for mentions made by other characters in passing. I want to know their family history, what they like to eat, if they sleep on their side or their backs (The Hound sleeps standing up I surmise). From Sandor’s first onscreen appearance in episode one Winter is Coming a snarling helm fashioned like a dog bouncing along on a horse, I knew I wanted this guy in my camp. The only thing I cannot figure out is what makes him stay. Gold, love, the promise of war? That’s half the fun I guess. I expect big things from the Hound in upcoming episodes finishing out this season. Good or bad they may be.

  • I just found this little gem on the subreddit forums: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIWX2fPx-5k&feature=related Keep your volume low.

  • Jefd

    I’m sure my post will get lost in this serious discussion but I do have to thank Levi for writing a nice piece for us.

  • Do you think Jaimie and the Hound would both “cheat” in a fight. I half expect Jaimie’s fights to be fairly clean and fair but he’s been doing some shady stuff in the show.

    • Charlie Harwood

      Hound vs. Brienne

      • I think my face would melt off if that ever happened.

  • I’d like to see The Hound vs Jaime Lannister at some point. Love the idea of the gruff, hardcore knight vs the polished golden knight.

  • Charlie Harwood

    Hound/hodor standoff. Haha that’s funny. Later on in the books (the unexpected pairing), he makes me believe there is a soft side to the Dog. We see a little of that when he rescues Sansa too. Seems like he has a real hard time showing it though cause he has to keep up his Hound persona.

  • Maybe he just has a fascination with pet names like his own? A dog protects a bird.

    • Would a dog protect a bird? I think it would be the other way around. I think that’s the importance of him being called the Hound. It could be a loyal follower or a vicious hunter.

      • Renard

        If Looney Tunes has taught me anything, the dog protects the bird from the cat.

  • Let’s have a Hound Vs speculation thread.

    No kidding don’t start that. Only Selmy could take the Hound in his prime anyway.

    • Andrea

      The Hound is the best character in the series and I love the on-screen adaptation. swooning with you though I’m a girl so it’s not as embarrassing.

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